Heat signs Joel Anthony and Dexter Pittman
One hour ago, the Miami Heat did not have a single center on its roster. Now it has two.
Joel Anthony and Dexter Pittman have both signed contracts.
Anthony, who is soon to be 28 years old, has accepted a five-year, $18.25 million deal.
Anthony will add a certain degree of value to the organization as a defensive and shot-blocking specialist. But the deal is too rich, and far too long.
Anthony is a 6-foot, 9-inch power forward playing out of position at center against a league full of giants due to his extreme offensive deficiencies. He is perhaps the single worst offensive player in the NBA. His inability to catch the basketball invites double teams toward his more talented teammates. When he does catch it, he’s often utterly confused as to what to do with it. When he’s on the floor, the Heat effectively plays offense four-against-five. It cannot be overstated how awful his offensive repertoire truly is.
Even more troubling is how shockingly poor he is at rebounding the basketball. He seems to lack both the instincts for finding the ball and the coordination to grab it when comes his way. More often that not, any value he creates on the defensive end is entirely offset by his inability to capitalize on it by grabbing a rebound.
If you’re a wildly undersized center who can’t play offense and can’t grab a rebound, it’s difficult to justify a contract greater than the minimum salary.
Heat president Pat Riley defended the contract shortly after it was executed:
This contract with Joel Anthony is a testament to the man who is second to none; who has worked hard and deserved this. We felt that what he has done over the last couple of years in developing his game, his body and his knowledge warrants this reward.
Rewarding effort is a wonderful concept in theory, but it poses significant problems in practical reality. This contract could well become an albatross under what will undoubtedly be a much more restrictive salary cap environment to come. In such an environment, the rule of thumb is simple: pay only what you must. Because the cost of giving any more could be having to break up your basketball team.
Anthony began the summer by opting out of the second season on his minimum salary contract in order to test his value on the free agent market. Weeks went by. No inquiries. Nobody was interested. He was, quite simply, worth the minimum salary contract he opted out of.
The Heat could have chosen to give just that much. They didn’t.
Some are suggesting that his contract has been structured to be a future trade chip. It wasn’t.
Anthony is a fringe NBA talent who is now playing under a five-year contract at around three-times his value. He’s not an asset now, and it’s only going to get worse as he ages and loses athleticism. The Heat know it. They didn’t structure his contract to be a potential trade chip.
In fact, the Heat and salary cap guru Andy Elisburg could have structured Anthony’s contract far better no matter what the circumstances. They could have, for example, offered a much more palatable three-year deal, with a higher starting salary that declined each year by the maximum 10.5% of the first year salary. There’s nothing better for a potential trade partner than receiving a contract that actually declines in value in future seasons. It’s the same story for the Heat if they plan to retain him. They would have lost very little and gained very much by offering Anthony more money today, when there are no luxury tax implications, and having his contract decline over time into an uncertain salary cap environment. It is difficult to even produce an explanation, reasonable or not, as to why they didn’t do so.
It’s certainly nice to have Joel on board. But there’s really no excuse for the crazy contract that was offered to him.
Pittman, the No. 32 pick in last month’s draft, was signed to a three-year minimum salary deal. The first year is fully guaranteed. The second year is fully unguaranteed, becoming 10% guaranteed if he is not waived on or before June 30, 2011, 80% guaranteed if he is not waived on or before July 25, 2011 and fully guaranteed on opening night. The final year is fully unguaranteed, becoming fully guaranteed on June 30, 2012.
With limited roster spots remaining, such an early commitment to Pittman is equally questionable.
Pittman has the potential to develop the offensive repertoire that Anthony lacks, with a nice touch around the basket, if he can get his conditioning in check. But he is still very raw, and the Heat organization has an aversion to giving its youngsters significant NBA-level playing time with which to develop.
With Anthony now under contract and Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Jamaal Magloire set to climb on board shortly, Pittman is likely to be sent to the Heat’s D-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, for development.
Riley has already hinted as much.
Dexter has the size and agility to be a very productive player for us in the long run, and there is no better place for him to improve than in the Miami Heat system.
If Pittman does not find his way into the Heat’s rotation, questions could certainly be asked as to why he was given a roster spot so early into the offseason. It remains to be seen just how valuable that final roster spot will become.
There certainly were other options.
Riley could have elected to analyze Pittman’s potential over the course of the offseason before offering a contract; Pittman hasn’t performed particularly well during summer league play. He could have also chosen to save the roster spot and allow Pittman to develop for a season unaffiliated with the Heat, perhaps in Europe, while still retaining his draft rights. Neither is an option any longer.
With four centers (Anthony, Pittman, Ilgauskus, and Magloire) and three power forwards (Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Juwan Howard) soon to be under contract, the Heat’s power rotation, barring any unforeseen circumstances, is now complete.
Score these two Riley signings in the questionable pile.